frogs, water bugs and turtles on Kemptville Creek

We’re back into the hot weather here. Tomorrow’s forecast shows 35C (around 95F). Don and I spent most of yesterday paddling up Kemptville Creek above Oxford Mills. There’s a put-in spot in the small park just above the dam (see above – click on all images for a larger view). As canoe trips go, this one is almost in our own backyard. For paddlers, this route is especially nice as there are no easy access points for motorized boats above the dam. A couple of landowners used to keep small boats, but we didn’t see any on this trip. Also, several sections of the creek pass over huge rocks at or just below the water surface, so the only craft that can pass is a canoe or kayak drawing almost no water. That makes for a quiet trip, and wildlife show very little fear of humans — and that’s a rare thing these days when motorized boats are so abundant.

We put the canoe in and saw our first Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) within moments. A little further upriver, Don thought he spotted a Muskrat swimming towards us, but it turned out to be the head of an enormous Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) that dived just as we came nose to nose. Sitting in the stern* seat, I got a great view of it drifting downwards, with the size distortion of the water making it look about the size of a manhole cover. Doubtless, it wasn’t quite that large, but I’d guess it was still a monster as snappers go.

Along the full length of our trip, we saw many Belted Kingfishers (Ceryle alcyon) diving in downwards arcs from trees on one side of the river to the other. Occasionally, we would see one rise, stall, and dive for a fish. With the high numbers of kingfishers seen, the food supply must be excellent.

Many sections of the creek are bordered with Pickerel Weed (Pontederia cordata). We stopped while I photographed this colony and discovered a Mink frog (Rana septentrionalis) sitting quietly on a lilypad (see above photo). These wonderfully marked frogs are rarely so approachable, so I shot quite a few photos from different angles. A juvenile Bull frog was found nearby.

Just before paddling on, I happened to notice this Water Bug (probably a species of Abedus) floating among some aquatic vegetation. Using my paddle, I managed to scoop it out of the water and set it down in the bottom of the canoe. As you can see from the above photo, it has strange nodules all over its back. This is a male Water Bug carrying eggs which the female has deposited onto his elytra. The smaller reddish things would be larval Water mites that would be feeding on the bug.

We continued upstream, paddling for about 2 hours total – including time spent floating while I photographed frogs, plants, insects and turtles. This is a view of one of the wider sections of the creek — which is probably more like a river compared to most creeks. Usually, we have to turn around at this bridge due to large boulders scattered just upstream. However, yesterday, water levels were such that we were able to continue further upstream than on any of our past trips on this creek. At a place where the creek seemed to split into two, we finally came to a place where the water became almost too shallow for our canoe (ankle deep), over a section of smooth limestone covered with much aquatic vegetation. I got out and waded around a bit, turning a few stones to search for crayfish. I did see many of them scooting tail-first through the vegetation, but was unable to capture one to examine. This area was teeming with minnows and young fish — definitely critical fish habitat.

After photographing another Mink frog, we turned back downstream and paddled back to the put-in, just stopping a few times for photo ops such as this large, algae-covered Painted Turtle found basking on a dead-head log. Other creatures seen but not photographed along the way were Great Blue Herons (probably about 5), a Beaver that crossed in front of us and then dived and swam towards a bank lodge, many Kingfishers — far too many to count — and a swarm of Red-winged Blackbirds (adults and young) moving about through cattails about half a kilometer upstream of the bridge. Catbirds and Cicadas were frequently heard calling from the forests bordering the creek.

All in all, it was a pretty idyllic few hours spent on this wonderful section of Kemptville Creek.

[*edit: I typed a bit of misinformation this morning – guess I was snoozing on the job – I put down that I was sitting in the bow seat — that should have read “stern” seat. Don always sits in the bow seat and gets to see the cool stuff first.]

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Trackback URI:
  • Comments RSS 2.0

15 Responses to “frogs, water bugs and turtles on Kemptville Creek”

  1. Burning Silo » Blog Archive » what we missed Says:

    […] a place where nature, photography and writing meet « frogs, water bugs and turtles on Kemptville Creek […]

  2. Peter Says:

    That water bug is certainly interesting. How big is it? Hard to gauge with a canoe bottom background ;-)

  3. burning silo Says:

    Peter – Yes, I should have mentioned that it was probably about an inch long. It didn’t seem quite as large as a similar one that I saw but didn’t get a chance to photograph while on another canoe trip. I don’t know a lot about these insects, so I’m not sure which species we have in my immediate area. May find out more over the next couple of days when I show the photo to a couple of local biologists.

  4. pablo Says:

    Any time floating in a canoe is a good time, but it is obviously so much better when you are knowledgeable about what is around you. Thanx for taking us along on the float.

  5. robin andrea Says:

    Great frog! Fantastic painted turtle. But that water bug with eggs on his back is just incredible looking. Wow. Looks like it was a beautiful day to be out there paddling. We’re thinking about getting a kayak. It really gives a different view of the waterways we tend to walk along.

  6. Leslie Says:

    Great canoe trip! That water bug is wild. So much going on in his little life.

  7. burning silo Says:

    Pablo – You’re so right… any time floating in a canoe is a good time. I’ve been doing volunteer stream survey work and also photographing fish during fish species surveys for several years now, so creeks and marshes feel like the other half of all that is our world. Canoes are just the right platform to put us right in the middle of everything.

    Robin – Thanks! Yes, isn’t the water bug incredible…and a little bizarre. It was a perfect today to be out on the water. We’re going to try to go out on the odd evening for the next while now. Have you used kayaks much in the past? It definitely does give a different view of waterways. I’ve also found that most creatures — especially birds — are not nearly as nervous of the approach of humans in canoes or kayaks. Same goes for beaver, and other mammals as well. The other nice thing about a kayak or canoe is that being in one, going along a river, I’ve found that I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations with people who are in my canoe. I’m not quite sure why that is, but being in the canoe seems to encourage a certain kind of dialogue.

    Leslie – Thanks! Yes, the bug sure is a strange thing. There’s a lot more to the whole process that the male bug is involved in — I think he has to stay close to the surface of the water the whole time the eggs are on his back, or some such thing. I should really try to find out more about them.

  8. Lynne Says:

    Thanks for the lovely canoe trip (I’ve never been in a canoe!). I thought the bullfrog was especially beautiful. Looks like he was sprinkled with gold dust!

  9. burning silo Says:

    Lynne – Thank you. Glad you came along for the ride! I agree — that was a very nice bull frog… I think the age of the frog had a lot to do with the coloration. It was definitely a juvenile.

  10. Sara Says:

    Those are amazing pictures,, I love them!

  11. burning silo Says:

    Sara – Thanks!

  12. Little Money Says:

    man that is one nasty looking bug! Looks like something from aliens.

  13. burning silo Says:

    Little Money – I’ve been told that their bite is most painful!

  14. heather marchbanks Says:


  15. burning silo Says:

    Heather – There are so many different species of frogs that it would be hard to guess, especially as I don’t know what area of the country you live in. If it looks sort of camo colored,then my guess is that it’s a Leopard Frog – they’re fairly common in many areas and aren’t as nervous as some of the other species, so are often found in goldfish ponds in gardens, etc… It’s better not to keep them as pets and may not even be legal depending on where you live. If you do keep him, he would need access to water at all times, and he needs a good supply of insects, worms, and other creatures to eat – which is one of the reasons it’s better to put him in a field or some place where he can continue to hunt for food.